Where did Labour go wrong? Let us count the ways…

The newest right-wing party: This Gary Baker cartoon appeared after Ed Miliband's 'One Nation' speech last year, but let's adopt it to illustrate the fact that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until, with Miliband's speech this week, it has become a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK's population with nobody to speak for them.

This Gary Baker cartoon illustrates the belief that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until it became a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK’s population with nobody to speak for them.

Watching a drama on DVD yesterday evening (yes, there is more to life than Vox Political), Yr Obdt Srvt was impressed by the very old idea of the partners in a married couple supporting each other – that behind every great man is a great woman, and vice versa.

It occurred to This Writer that perhaps the biggest problem with the Labour Party’s campaign – not just for the May election but over the last five years – has been the leadership’s insistent refusal to support the requirements of its grassroots campaigners.

So, for example, on the economy: We all know for a fact that the big crash of 2008 or thereabouts was caused by the profligacy of bankers, and not by any overspending on the part of the Labour government of the time. Economists say it, blogs like VP say it, and we all have the evidence to support the claim. So why the blazes didn’t the Labour Party say it? Instead they let the Conservative Party walk all over us with their speeches about “The mess that Labour left us”.

On austerity: We all know that fiscal austerity will never achieve the economic boom that George Osborne claimed for it. If you take money out of the economy, there is less money – not more. What the UK needed in 2010 was a programme of investment in creating jobs with decent wages for the people who make the economy work – ordinary people, not bankers, fatcat business executives and MPs. The money would then have trickled up through the economy, creating extra value as it went. Quantitative easing could have done some good if it had been used properly, but after the Bank of England created the new money it passed the cash to other banks, rather than putting it anywhere useful. The Conservative Party said austerity was the only way forward: “There is no alternative”. Why did Labour agree? Party bigwigs might protest that Labour’s austerity was less, but the simple fact is that the UK was never in any danger of bankruptcy and there was no need to balance the books in a hurry. There’s still no need for it. Austerity was just a way of taking money from those of us who need it and giving it to those who don’t.

On the national debt: The Tories have hammered home a message that their policies are cutting the national deficit and paying down the national debt. That message is a lie. The national debt has doubled since the Conservatives took over. Labour hardly mentioned that.

On benefits: Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘welfare reforms’ have cut a murderous swathe through the sick and the poor, with more than 10,000 deaths recorded in 11 months during 2011, among ESA claimants alone. Many have chosen to attack Labour for introducing ESA in the first place, and for employing Atos to carry out the brutal and nonsensical Work Capability Assessments, based on a bastardised version of the unproven ‘biopsychosocial’ model, that ruled so many people ineligible for a benefit they had funded throughout their working lives. Labour should have promised to scrap ESA and the Work Capability Assessment in favour of an alternative – possibly even a rational – system. But Labour continued to support the Work Capability Assessment, earning the hatred of the sick and disabled. Why? According to Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, it was because the party leadership was afraid of provoking the right-wing press. Well done, Labour! As a result, instead of tearing into Labour like rabid attack dogs, the right-wing media… tore into Labour like rabid attack dogs. This pitifully weak attitude made no difference at all and Labour would have earned more votes by promising to ditch a policy it should never have adopted.

On education: This Writer attended a hustings on education, here in Brecon and Radnorshire. It was attended by many local teachers and it was clear that they all wanted to hear someone say they would clear away the layers of bureaucracy and constant interference that interfere with their jobs, and allow them to get on with teaching our youngsters. Nobody said anything of the kind, including the Labour candidate. Meanwhile, Michael Gove’s pet project – the very expensive ‘Free Schools’, continues unabated, and state-owned schools continue to be turned into privately-run ‘academies’, with all their assets turned over to private companies for free. And what about the debate over what should be taught in our schools and colleges? With employers now merrily shirking any training responsibilities and taking on foreign workers because they know what to do, can our educational institutions not take up the slack and provide that training for British people, so we don’t need to import as many people from abroad?

On immigration and the European Union: Right wingers including Tories and Kippers (members and supporters of UKIP) have made many claims that immigrants are a threat to the UK and to our way of life. In fact, migrant workers are a net benefit to the country, contributing far more to the UK Treasury in taxes than they ever claim in benefits. Ah, but they’re occupying houses that could be taken by British people; they use our NHS and their children take up places in our schools – and it’s all Labour’s fault because Labour signed the treaty that let them in, according to the right-wing critics. In fact, the Conservative Party signed that treaty, in the early 1970s. Free movement between European Union countries has always been a condition of membership and was never a problem when the EU consisted of nations that were on a relatively equal economic standing. The problem arose when the poorer eastern European countries were admitted to the union and people from those countries took advantage of the rule to seek a better life in the more affluent West. The simple fact is that those nations should not have been allowed full Union membership until their economies had grown enough that people would not want to move here – that was a matter that EU officials failed to address, not the UK government. Labour’s response was to fall in line with the right-wingers and promise harsh immigration controls. People naturally asked why they should vote Labour if Labour was no different from the nasty Tories.

On the NHS: Labour promised to repeal the Health and Social Care Act, ending the creeping privatisation of the NHS – and then said that it would limit the profits of private firms working in the NHS. This is contradictory and confusing. People wanted to end NHS privatisation, not let it go on with limited profits!

On housing: Labour promised an increased home-building programme, but what people need right now are council houses – cheaply-rentable properties run on a not-for-profit basis by local authorities. They need this because there is an appalling shortage of appropriate housing for individuals and families of varying sizes, due to the Conservative ‘Right to Buy’ policies that started in the 1980s. Council houses were sold off to their tenants, who in turn sold them to private landlords, who rented them out for more money than councils ever demanded. Labour never offered to build council houses again. Instead, we were promised more expensive alternatives from the private sector that we didn’t – and don’t – want.

On privatisation: More than 70 per cent of the general public wanted energy firms re-nationalised when the controversy over bills arose in 2013. Labour should have promised at least to consider it. Labour did not. Labour is the party that should represent public ownership of utilities. The private water, electricity and gas companies have ripped off consumers with high rates that were never part of the offer when their shares were floated on the stock exchange. But Labour was happy to allow those firms to continue.

These are just a few reasons Labour let the people down. They arise from the disastrous philosophical reversal of the 1990s that changed the party from one that represents the people into one that exploits us instead. Now, right-wingers in the party like Peter Mandelson are claiming that Ed Miliband pulled Labour too far back to the Left; instead, they want Labour to push further into Tory territory, utterly abandoning its core voters.

That would be a tragedy – not only for the people of the UK, but also for Labour. We already have one Conservative Party; we don’t need another.

Labour must rid itself of the right-wingers in its ranks and return to its original values – before it is too late for all of us.

Or is it already too late, thanks to the dithering of the last five years?

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28 thoughts on “Where did Labour go wrong? Let us count the ways…

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It makes some interesting points.
      WAY off track when discussing the SNP, but I suppose Scottish people will have to live through what’s coming to understand why.

  1. NMac

    During the campaign I helped my daughter with leaflet distribution and on the first day alone I lost count of the number of people who genuinely believed the economic crash of 2008/09 was caused by the Labour Party and their spending. I was almost permanently having to explain to people that it was the Banks and Financial institutions which caused the mess. As I personally see it the Labour Party did very little to dispel this myth.

    1. Ian Duncan Smith

      You are absolutely correct – we started that lie as soon as we conned our way into power in 2010 and we have been repeating it ever since. It’s good to know that slogans are just as memorable as the three times table, as my friend Michael Gove keeps telling me.The queer thing is that I can’t always remember it, but that’s what civil servants and calculators are for, isn’t it?

      I must also say that the way we conned Clegg into bailing us out with the coalition was a lot easier than anyone thought it would be. We all thought that Clegg would walk away from the agreement as soon as he realised that the referendum on voting reform wasn’t serious, but the amazing thing is that he NEVER DID. So those photos that the Whips Office says it has of him must be quite disgusting!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your comments haven’t appeared yet. Perhaps you’d like to add them to my reblog?

      1. oblomovIII

        Jumped the gun Mike,
        I think it’s important to point out the things the Labour party don’t feel able to discuss – the structural relationships underpinning our society,
        What’s the nature of money? How can QE exist (funding for banks) but there isn’t enough money for community growth, libraries, social care etc?
        What’s the role of government? Why do we have an “independent” central bank? What’s the nature of a company, and the impact of limited liability, the links between shell companies, land ownership, low pay and escalating housing benefits?
        In a nutshell, Labour ought to be fighting for a system where markets can be genuinely free, but controlled to benefit the humble folk of Britain, the small businessperson, the one-man-band, not (just) the inter-continental monoliths.
        Labour needs to say to “wealth-creators” that it’s their customers that create the wealth, and by impoverishing their workforce and fleecing their customers they are only creating wealth for one, not many.
        Labour need to shun the managerialism which led to hiving-off policy decisions to the BOE and quangos and embrace the responsibility of joined up thinking about the whole nature of what it means to be a citizen, – the point of governance ought not to be to retain power (the Tories only plan), but to be given the power to change what needs changing.
        This takes, vision, commitment and a serious amount of guts, but without it, you end up offering a cover-version of politics, not something new, worthwhile and memorable.

  2. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    Another thing I think Labour should have dealt with was “the note” Liam Byrne left, which the tories mentioned at every opportunity.
    Apparently it’s a traditional treasury joke to leave a note of that nature for the next incimbent and Labour should have replied thus …

    It has similarities to the note reportedly left by the Conservative Reggie Maudling to Labour’s Jim Callaghan when he became chancellor in 1964, which said: “Sorry to leave it in such a mess, old cock.”

      1. casalealex

        Over the previous three/four weeks I kept on refuting Cameron’s insistence of bringing up ‘the letter’ at every opportunity; on a number of timelines (David Cameron’s included), and numerous groups.
        Mentioning Reg Maudling’s 1964 letter, and that it is said this is a regular occurrence at the end of a parliament, when a different party takes over. Seems it should have been mps who were putting this forward. But having said that, which newspaper, or msm, would have put this to the public?

      2. chriskitcher

        For the very reasons stated above I believe that any of the leading light’s in Milliband’s government should not be vying for places in and leadership of the reformed Labour party.

        Because they were gutless and silent on this matter we cannot allow them to lead the party to further defeat by their silence in the future.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        In Miliband’s shadow cabinet, you mean. He never formed a government. I agree. There should be no place at the top for Yvette Cooper, Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna.

  3. Clare

    On the first point (economy) – “So why the blazes didn’t the Labour Party say it?”

    To be fair, Ed M *did* say it on one of the leaders’ debates, including making the point to David Cameron that the Tories had wanted even more deregulation of the banks at the time. Maybe that was too little too late, though.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      And Peter Hain said it on Any Questions a couple of years ago.
      Labour should have been hammering it home constantly, over the whole five-year period of the Coalition Government.

  4. HomerJS

    So many good points Mike. Labour need to realise that when they talk about a return to the centre that they consider would mean a move to the right, that a lot of Labour voters consider that a move to the left. Why worry about being ‘out of touch’ with people who voted Tory, when you are ‘out of touch’ with people who voted Labour? They will spend so much time trying to woo Tory voters that they will neglect their core support. People hate to be taken for granted and that’s why support will/has drifted away to the Greens and UKIP.

  5. wrjones2012

    Whilst of course it is right that there should be a look at where Labour went wrong in the Election,it is also important to look at the Election results as a whole.If you look at it,the result can only be described as a freak result.I don’t think any trends or voting patterns can be taken from the result.

    Whilst many pages have been written about the results from Scotland,almost none have been written about another factor in the result which was just as pivotal.I’m talking about the total collapse in both the Lib Dem vote and seats.They held 57 before and now hold just eight.Nearly all these seats went to the Tories.

    Given the result,it is hard really to look for crumbs of comfort!Though in the target Tory seats,Labour had a net gain of about ten seats.Whilst this was perhaps disappointing in terms of looking for a Labour victory,it did show that things,apart from the Scottish aand Lib Dem parts were not a total disaster for Labour.

    1. John Gaines

      I really do think that Election Fraud is a major factor in these ‘Freak’ claims; instead of self pity, labour should be minutely scrutinising the Voter Registers in these freak results, this election has the smell of the Republican Party’s (Tory friends) voter deception tricks stamped all over it.
      Milliband was a wuss, but not that much more of a wuss than Cameroon.

  6. Nick

    ukip had a solid message on immigration and the EU and got 4 million votes had that been the same message with regards the NHS with the same extreme type of language in support of the NHS ukip would have got 8 million votes

    The SNP had a solid message to such an extent and had Nicola Sturgeon been the labour leader labour would be in power today and it’s as simple as that

    Leanne Wood had the same agenda and message to deliver for wales but as her delivery was not no where as good as Nicola Sturgeon she failed

    As i have always maintained to lead your country you need to be in the Nicola Sturgeon ball park even if it’s crap it will still turn out to be a winner as we saw with ukip with 4 million votes

    yes it didn’t amount to many seats just the one but it proves that not only does your personality play a major part but also how you deliver that massage and at the end of the day that will be your outcome

    cameron /clegg/milliband were all speaking the same language and that is how it was seen as such and with the immigration EU card being played with such vengeance and belief by UKIP the public panicked and voted all over the place which gave the conservatives a small majority

  7. Joan Edington

    Mike, has the election result changed your mind about Labour or were your pre-election posts simply party campaigning? You used to say, at every opportunity, that Labour were VERY different from the Tories. You seem to have joined ranks with those of us who always said that Ed never pushed his points in any effective manner.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Labour ARE very different from the Tories.
      Before the election, I supported Labour as the best party to put the UK’s house in order.
      Now there’s a chance to fix the problems that I have seen with the party, so I’m going to get on with discussing that.

  8. Ian

    I have seen far too many Question Times where a Tory politician (or guest) made the ‘ruined the economy accusation and the Labour representative just sat there mute, accepting the accusation. It must have been a deliberate strategy decision to play t that way but for the life of me I cannot see what was to be gained from it.

    I can’t just blame Ed Miliband for the defeat, though he should have gone a year ago when it was clear h wasn’t going to build a lead in the polls. He did allow their campaign to focus on him too much. Having said that, maybe Miliband was the best of a pretty poor bunch. I mean, who is going to be inspired by Chuka Umunna or Yvette Cooper? Christ, imagine Tritram Hunt trying to whip up a crowd? He didn’t even know hat he stood for on education – his shadow brief – on QT up against Gove, he both agreed with Tory policy and disagreed with it; a truly lamentable politician who really does not know his arse from a tumble dryer. That might sum up Labour’s problem: in trying to be all things to all men they ended up being very little to very few. The modern Parliamentary Labour Party seem to be made up of theoretical people, engineered simulations; they look like men and women, wear the right suits and all that. Nice hair cuts. But once they open their mouths they give the game away – no heart, no emotion, weird wonkspeak and jargon and not a single one of them looked like they belonged there or even wanted to be there, in many cases. The next leader had better have some oomph because his/her cabinet and MPs are sadly lacking and he’s going to have to make up for that.

    Now look at the bookies’ list of favourites. Have you seen that shower of pointless individuals? Chuka Umunna was in the Guardian on Saturday talking about the need tp speak to the middle class and ‘those who do their bit, he wealth creators’. This is the favourite to lead the party into the next election. The Labour Pary, that is, not the Conservatves or the Republicans in the US. Imagine that, a potental Labour leader talking about wealth creators in that context? Any genuine Labour man worth his salt would acknowledge that it’s the masses, the people that do the actual work who create the wealth. This is how far we’ve come and if Umunna gets the job the Labour Party will render itself redundant and he working classes will no longer even have this tiny shred of democratic representation left. “Those who do their bit”. Like the poor sos pulling their tripe out in Primark or care homes or building sites don’t cont. Do NOT elect this self-serving Tory as leader, t will see the end of the party.


  9. paulrutherford8

    And on the issue of the [ahem] removal of the spare room subsidy… yep, the ‘subsidy’ that never existed in the first place… thanks for leaving it to me!!!

    I agree with everything you’ve said about Labour hammering away to refute all the propaganda, lies and statistical manipulation that oozed like slime from the cesspool of tory HQ.

    I have written to Labour this evening, pretty much saying what you’ve said above… and no, I hadn’t seen this until a few minutes ago!

    The most disturbing example [to me, it was personal], of Labour allowing a tory ‘smear’ to get through happerned on BBC Daily Politics last week when IDS was on in a debate with a couple of other politicians and Labour’s Rachel Reeves. She spoke about coming down to west Wales and meeting my and my family and our bedroom tax situation.

    Then, a few minutes later, Andrew Neill asked her to explain the ‘fact’ that “… Labour introduced bedroom tax into the private sector and trialled it in 2001…”

    Instead of informing people that the ‘trial’ was of an idea to pay tenants to move if there was a suitable, smaller property offered, with no coercion nor loss of benefits if they refused, and that the HB restriction via LHA was to halt excessive rents [profiteering] charged by private landlords, the value of which was reduced by equivalent of some 40% by the WRA2012 and bedroom tax was brought in by WRA2012 by the tories, affects mostly disabled & carers, etc., … all she said was “Well the LHA wasn’t retrospective…” and went on about something else.

    THAT was the point when twitter exploded with twets saying RR had just admitted bedroom tax was Labour’s idea.

    IDS smirked, and Labour lost a lot of votes.

  10. markbrownlie

    Labour have been bought out…when people wake up and realise they do not have to vote for one failing opposition party that stopped listening or caring for those that elected them?? A NEW party is required to represent the voice of the masses…this is the way the Labour Party was formed…when the then current opposition party, The Liberal Party failed to voice the opposed effectively. Forget what Labour used to stand for (they have themselves forgotten)…. Vote for who represents your values now!

  11. Andy

    Personal thought is of the type of candidate that Labour put forward. There seems to be an identikit candidate factory somewhere that churns out a stream of characterless middle class university educated clones. Where are the candidates who grab peeps attention offering something different from career politicians?

    I am not a member of the Labour Party and was living in Paisley when Danny Alexander was parachuted in against the wishes of the local activists; I did feel a certain Karma when he was defeated by a young female firebrand.

    We can see the right wing press trying to influence the leadership process now and to me the likes of Mandleson and co who wish to return to the New Labour project are the problem and not the solution. How much of the privatisation started under that lot? I for one will not be returning to Labour until they offer an alternative rather than try to be Tory lite.

  12. Joe Carnivalist

    If you ask me deep down people are scared and insecure. I suspect that something at the back of their mind is telling them that things are on a more of a knife-edge than their leaders are letting on, even if they are unaware that housing is just one of a number of unsustainable asset bubbles getting ready to pop. In that scenario people tend to be innately conservative and to lash out at scapegoats, whether that be benefit scroungers or whoever – its only when those fears are realised that they question more deeply.

    Of course the situation isn’t helped by the fact that most people don’t understand the technicalities and tend to believe self-serving politicians and the like when they manipulate statistics in the cause of ideology. The mendacious treatment of macroeconomics as a question of which policy seems to be intuitively correct based on their perceptions of what is or is not “common-sense” is a case in point – witness the infamously moronic and wrong-headed Household/Business analogy that constantly gets parroted when cuts are defended – “Every Housewife and small business owner knows that if they spend more on Groceries/Stock than their income then woe betide them! If we trick you into electing us we will learn those lessons!” yada yada – instead of looking at the facts, the historical context and the way in which the behaviour of very large and very small systems is often counter-intuitive (funnily enough Quantum Mechanics is a very roughly similar phenomenon in terms of a microscopic system behaving counterintuitively).

    This explains the swallowing of the ideologically-driven BS about the deficit and the debt by people who could barely define the terms, let alone give you the figures or compare the historic trends. And now the Labour Party have comprehensively given up on any notion of defending themselves in the face of ridicule from those who should know better and the likes of Question Time audiences who don’t know better. The depressing concluion of New Labour/Old Capital is that its easier to gain support if you pander to widely believed misconceptions and apologise.

    We can only hope that the new leader abandons the tedious pretence of the past two decades and renames the party “Capital”.

    Triumph Of The Unthinking  – The New York Times (Why the claims of a historic UK fiscal crisis is a deceit)


    …nowhere was the triumph of inanity (i.e the fiscal crisis narrative) more complete than in (the UK) which is going to the polls as I write this… nobody with influence is challenging transparently false claims and bad ideas…every piece of this story is demonstrably, ludicrously wrong. Pre-crisis Britain wasn’t fiscally profligate. Debt and deficits were low, and at the time everyone expected them to stay that way; big deficits only arose as a result of the crisis. The crisis… was driven by runaway banks and private debt, not government deficits. There was no urgency about austerity: financial markets never showed any concern about British solvency…

    …this nonsense narrative (of the historic deficit/debt crisis)  completely dominates news reporting, where it is treated as a fact rather than a hypothesis. And Labour hasn’t tried to push back, probably because they considered this a political fight they couldn’t win.But why?…

    (The leading Ocford University economist, Simon Wren-Lewis)  suggests that it has a lot to do with the power of misleading analogies between governments and households, and also with the malign influence of economists working for the financial industry, who in Britain as in America constantly peddle scare stories about deficits and pay no price for being consistently wrong. …my guess is that Britain also suffers from the desire of public figures to sound serious, a pose which they associate with stern talk about the need to make hard choices (at other people’s expense, of course.)

    …The fact is that Britain and America didn’t need to make hard choices in the aftermath of crisis. What they needed, instead, was hard thinking — a willingness to understand that this was a special environment, that the usual rules don’t apply in a persistently depressed economy, one in which government borrowing doesn’t compete with private investment and costs next to nothing.”

    The Centre For Macroeconomics Survey – The Importance of Elections for UK Economic Activity (Most economists reject austerity and the fiscal crisis myth).

    “In the week before the dissolution of Parliament, the Centre for Macroeconomics asked its panel of experts about the effects of governments on aggregate economic activity.

    The great majority of respondents (i.e prominent economists) disagree with the proposition that the coalition government’s austerity policies have had a positive effect on aggregate economic activity. And an overwhelming majority of respondents agree that the outcome of the general election (assuming a stable government is formed) will have non-trivial consequences for economic activity.”

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Labour hasn’t given up on defending itself – Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have been strident in stating that Labour did NOT overspend before the crash, and that the crash itself was a global phenomenon caused by bankers trading in dodgy derivatives (basically, packets of debt sold on from one bank to another until nobody knew what they owned).

      You’ll be aware that I subscribe to the beliefs of Paul Krugman and Simon Wren-Lewis on what happened.

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